KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Liverpool’s luck with penalties changed as they won the UEFA Super Cup in a shootout against Chelsea in Istanbul. Ten days earlier Jurgen Klopp’s team lost 5-4 to Manchester City in the English FA Community Shield. This time they triumphed by that same margin after a 2-2 draw in extra time.
The 90 minutes had ended all-square after matching goals from Olivier Giroud and Sadio Mane. Liverpool grabbed an early advantage in extra time with Mane converting an assist from Roberto Firmino but Chelsea quickly equalised with a Jorginho penalty.
The penalty was a difficult decision for French referee Stephanie Frappart but her decision was endorsed by VAR after Tammy Abraham tumbled over goalkeeper Adrian. That meant penalties again – this time a shootout. Everyone converted their kicks until, finally, Tammy Abraham had Chelsea’s fifth saved by Liverpool keeper Adrian.
This was the first time two English clubs had contested the Super Cup. The confrontation between Reds and Blues underlined the European command of the Premier League evidenced by the presence of four clubs in last season’s two finals.
Liverpool were in far better shape. They had held Manchester City in the FA Community Shield, losing ‘only’ on penalties and then opened their Premier campaign with an easy 4:1 demolition of Daniel Farke’s Norwich.
Momentum remained with Jurgen Klopp and his team just two months after reclaiming the Champions League crown against Tottenham in Madrid.
No such luck for Chelsea. They had accepted a transfer market ban from FIFA and lost the manager, in Maurizio Sarri, who had plotted their Europa League victory over Arsenal. In his place had arrived Frank Lampard, an old favourite of the fans for his achievements as a player but a notice as a manager.
Lampard’s debut in charge of Chelsea, after only one year’s experience with Derby in the second division, had been a four-goal thrashing at Manchester United. Also, Lampard brought his team back to Istanbul without injured Antonio Rudiger at the heat of defence.
No wonder Lampard had described his early weeks back at Chelsea as a “roller coaster”. History was also against him: Lampard had lost two Super Cups as a player with Chelsea, against Atletico Madrid and FC Bayern.
Liverpool approached their sixth appearance in a UEFA Super Cup with only one enforced problem. Alisson, who injured a calf muscle against Norwich, was replaced in goal by 32-year-old Adrian who had not played in the Premier League last season with West Ham and had been keeping fit with a semi-professional club in his native Spain.
Five of the previous six Super Cup contests had been won by the reigning European champions – Real Madrid in 2014, 2016 and 2017, FC Bayern in 2013 and Barcelona in 2015. The task of overseeing the latest duel had been entrusted to French referee Stephanie Frappart, the first woman appointed to a major men’s final.
The Besiktas stadium saw both teams opened in expansive fashion. Chelsea included both N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in defensive midfield but showed no signs of caution. They even contributed the first meaningful shot when Pedro’s shot skimmed wide of the righthand post of Adrian, playing his first game in European competition for three years.
Liverpool, employing selection rotation, responded positively but the humidity and early-season date militated against all-out Gegenpressing. Mo Salah spearheaded their first serious attack in the 15th minute but Kepa Arrizabalaga saved comfortably.
Chelsea could have taken the lead minutes later when poor Liverpool defending allowed Pedro to slice through on the left only for his shot to ricochet away off the crossbar.
Lampard was happy to see his team moving the ball more smoothly than Liverpool who appeared short of cohesion without Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian, only recently back from holiday after the Copa America, had started on the substitutes’ bench.
Sadio Mane, playing centre-forward in Firmino’s role, had a ‘free’ header saved by Kepa after a corner before Chelsea gained a deserved reward for their positivity. The outstanding Kante and Christian Pulisic set up Olivier Giroud to open the scoring in the 35th minute. Four minutes later Pulisic thought he had scored a second goal but he was denied by an offside flag, confirmed by VAR.
Firmino’s key role
Klopp brought on Firmino after the interval and was rewarded inside three minutes. Fabinho clipped the ball over the Chelsea defence and Firmino chased it forward before Mane provided the equalising touch. This was reminiscent of the Community Shield in which Liverpool conceded a first-half goal to Manchester City then raised their game after the break.
Firmino and Mane then set up Jordan Henderson for a shot which Kepa saved despite an awkward deflection as Chelsea battled to hold out. The Spanish goalkeeper’s brilliance kept them in the game again in the 75th minute. He dived to save an angled shot from Salah then got up immediately to push Virgil van Dijk’s follow-up against the angle of post and bar.
Frappart signalled her own command of the match by showing yellow cards to Cesar Azpilicueta then Jordan Henderson as the game ran into extra time.
PENALTIES (Liverpool first)
Firmino 1-0, Jorginho 1-1;
Fabinho 2-1, Barkley 2-2;
Origi 3-2, Mount 3-3;
Alexander-Arnold 4-3, Emerson 4-4;
Salah 5-4, Abraham saved 5-4.